Part II: Coal Mine Safety conference
Mine safety symposium part II in Price. Mike Dalpiaz from the United Mine Workers spoke at the conference. He defined what the role of the individual is in safety. He began his career in 1971. He worked for eight years in the mine and then decided to take a new direction in his career and to try to help people. He was elected to the United Mine Workers of America and was the auditor for a time and served as the vice president of Utah, Wyoming and Arizona and is an executive board member. In 1995 he became the International Vice President of the Western United States.
The UMWA also represents bus drivers, teachers, truck drivers and others. Dalpiaz said every place they represent has potential safety problems. Dalpiaz thanked Sen. Mike Dmitrich for his help in mining related issues in the legislature. Dalpiaz said he wished there were more workers represented in the audience attending the mine safety conference. He observed mostly management people here and he said safety must be applied on a personal level.
Dalpiaz stressed the importance of listening to the workers as far as safety is concerned. Workers are nonproductive if they are worried about safety. Workers have an obligation to make sure it's run safely. "If there is a problem then find it and fix it. We don't need threats, but sometimes that happens. Some operators choose production over safety. Some operators don't fix a problem until they're forced to fix it. You have a right to a safe work place. If a person sees something unsafe, they have the right to withdraw. You can't be retaliated against. You have the right to get another individual as a safety representative. You have the right to get the safety committee involved. You have the right to work safely," said Dalpiaz.
He said if the safety problems don't get fixed then call management and then if they still aren't addressed call MSHA and now there is another option. You can call Garth Nielsonat the Utah Office of Coal Mine Safety. Dalpiaz said it is important not to place blame. "We don't want scared workers. I've talked to the families of the Crandall Canyon miners and there was one common thread, they were scared. They were scared of repercussions. That mountain was doing things it have never done before," said Dalpiaz.
Dalpiaz likes to see an open door policy with safety but that is not always the case. It can't be one sided the workers need to help with safety. Safety is the right for all of us. Workers are scared to lose their jobs in this economy. They need the job. They need to listen to the workers. Being macho and proud doesn't help the workers. MSHA is the watch dog and now the state is involved more. Some people say that MSHA nitpicks. They have been sleeping at the switch and we can't allow that to happen. They are our protection. MSHA has been doing some small things and making improvements, and they have many more improvements to make. If people don't do their jobs then other people pay the price for that with their blood.
Dalpiaz compared the enforcement in mining to the fish cops he saw when he was out deer hunting. They were all over and checking stations set up. This state is paying more attention to deer and elk than coal mining. They drive around in fancy trucks and lights. They didn't give Garth the tools he needs, the state of Utah has its priorities wrong. I wonder how much money the fish and game makes? It shouldn't be all about economics. We mine 22-25 million ton of coal a year, that has to be worth something.
Dalpiaz mentioned the anonymous tip line that isn't really anonymous. You have to tell your location and then you aren't anonymous. People are afraid of retaliation. You hear safety over production, but that's not true those are just one liners. Talking to the employees and getting their opinions is free. Check it out, look at their problems and fix them.
Dalpiaz said the workers worry about incidents going in their files. Everything is written up and put in their file. It's a fear factor for employees. Employees also report near misses which employers shouldn't use in a wrong manner. If employees are nervous and always looking over their shoulders, that is unsafe.
Dalpiaz is the mayor of Helper and they tell their employees If you don't feel good about it, then we'll fix it. It is a good policy when they bring something to our attention we praise them. We put a thank you letter in their file and reward them. That works better, that is a morale booster; that works better than punishment. Get together and work as a team. Let's work together to solve the problems, said Dalpiaz.
Garth Nielson said Mike Dalpiaz is on the advisory board of the Utah Coal Mine Safety Office and in their discussions everyone agrees the most important thing is safety.